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As of last week, the Headquarters, Millhopper, Tower Road and Alachua libraries began offering browsing hours 3-5 p.m. on Mondays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3-7 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays

In spite of social distancing, community members can stay safely connected to storytelling through the adapted services of Alachua County’s Library District. Curbside pick-up makes it possible to checkout materials with minimal contact.

“The library is an integral part of the community,” said Phillis Filer, Alachua County Library District public services administrator. “The services that we offer are a type of lifeline.”

All Alachua County library branch locations have begun offering curbside service to registered patrons with a library card or ID from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, according to Alachua County Library District public relations and marketing manager Rachel Cook. Curbside pick-up, along with online services, is free and accessible to the public. The online selection offers more than 80,000 eBooks, digital magazines and eSources.

Library patrons may select items for checkout through the virtual catalog or by calling their desired branch. Patrons should call the branch upon arrival so staff members can bring out the items for them, according to Livingston.

“In these difficult times, we can provide comfort, entertainment, education and much more,” Shaney T. Livingston, Alachua County Library District director, said. “The majority of our collection will be available for customers to borrow.”

As of Wednesday, 4,467 items had been checked out using curbside pick-up. Staff members have checked in over 23,000 items through the book drops that branches have been offering since May 6, Cook said.

For families like that of frequent library patron Jessica Maynard, curbside pick-up is about reconnecting with favorite pastimes. 

“It’s just wonderful for us to have some new reading material as we were reading the same children’s books for the past two months,” Maynard said. “Immediately when our kids got home, they dumped out their new library books on the couch to start reading them.”

With the wellbeing of staff members and consumers in mind, libraries have undergone preparation to ensure safety measures are in place. Items returned to the library will be deposited into a drop to avoid contact with staff, where they will then be isolated for 72 hours before being brought back into circulation, Cook said.

“All employees are completing a health screening when they arrive to work each day,” said Livingston. “We are providing masks and gloves for them to use throughout the day and have examined all office space to ensure employees can work six feet apart.”

Those using curbside services are encouraged to wear a mask while interacting with staff.

“Library workers are experiencing the same things that all residents face during the pandemic – concern for the health of themselves and their loved ones and a desire to help their community,” said Livingston. “We are constantly evaluating best practices for safety and investing in necessary supplies to keep our employees safe.”

The pandemic has been difficult for many librarians who were used to providing face-to-face service for patrons, Filer said. According to Filer, programs that have already been planned out, such as the district’s summer reading program, will now have to be pivoted to a virtual environment.

Book return and card expiration dates have been extended through June 15 for all currently checked out items and standing registrations, Cook said. The library district is working to ensure that residents are aware of any updates, and it plans on potentially offering more services in the coming weeks depending on the state of the pandemic.

“Books and other material that we offer allow patrons to find calm and a sense of peace,” said Filer. “Our goal is to meet the educational and recreational needs of our community.”

Contact Natalia at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @GaliczaNatalia.

Staff Writer

Natalia studies journalism and Portuguese at UF. She is also pursuing a certificate in international communications. In her free time, she likes to write poetry or (try to) play guitar. She hopes to pursue nonprofit or advocacy journalism in the future.